Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones: Vol. 12

Story by Eric.

This is the 12th in a long series titled, "Why You Shouldn't Believe Marion Jones." This series depicts the life and times of a (former) woman sprinter whose lies and cover-ups about doping in sport continue even through this day.

The biggest tale I’ve ever been told was a truly pathetic one.

Marion Jones stated that she had only taken drugs for a short period of time in her career, and she was not aware of what was being provided to her by her coach. Marion Jones also claimed to authorities that all she'd done in the form of obstructing justice was cover up a couple of small, little details about a simple little check her ex-boyfriend (and father of her first child), a dope cheater, himself, deposited into her account in the amount of $25.000 as part of a money laundering scheme to which he plead guilty, in addition to only having told a little white lie to a couple of I.R.S. agents when she'd sworn an oath to secrecy about flaxseed oil that a big, bad man named Trevor Graham had told her to keep to herself.

Graham had duped her, she said, and she lied to save her career.

The second biggest lie I have ever been told is the one in the entire concoction of a story which unfolded during the eighth month of 2006 when newspaper articles flooded the world with dramatic news of Marion Jones’s brush with the athletics firing squad, and Marion Jones was on her ark floating back away into yonder from where she came.

Or was she?

Much of the world was led astray to believe that Marion Jones had been contacted whilst in Zürich by her athletics federation, USATF, regarding her “A”-sample test having had too high traces of EPO from the national championships, and was told by her attorney to return home to the United States of America and remain there until further notice.

Whilst the journalists were busy scurrying for news about EPO, its effects on sprinting and delivering news on a magnitude of epic proportions with respect to the person upon which it centred, Marion Jones was harbouring a very personal secret which, respectfully so, was in fact a personal matter which should never have come to light in a perfect world.

Citing “personal reasons”, Marion Jones abandoned plans to compete one final time down a lane to cover 100m of a rubberised artificial surface at Letzigrund Stadium – the track where she’d set her low-altitude lifetime best over 200m nine years earlier, and departed the Intercontinental Hotel for a very early flight across continents; the 364-guestroom hotel’s “Express Checkout” service was literally put to the test that morning.

Marion Jones also turned her back on a top prize structure of between $16.000 and $9.000 for winning, drawing or taking home the show spots, which is a very peculiar move for a woman who’s lifetime savings were about to bottom out. That was a secret we were never meant to have known.

She left Sherone Simpson (11,09), Me’Lisa Barber (11,25) and Stephanie Durst (11,27) to fight a negative 0,8 wind – not entirely uncomfortable against which to manage for a short dash – for the top spots on the fourth stop of the IAAF Golden League circuit. Letzigrund stadium would cement its 81-year history following the men’s 400m dash – three events later in a race won by American Jeremy Wariner (44,20), the 2004 Olympic Champion, and it would begin anew on 2007-September-7 following a 121-million Swiss Franc investment.

Marion Jones had broken the 11-second barrier for 100 metres on Zürich’s venerable track in each of her five competitions there, with her lone defeat a second-place finish in her first season as a professional in 1997. She competed at the stadium nine times in competitions ranging between the 100m, 200m and long jump, and departed victorious on eight of those occasions – two with world-leading marks in hand.

Folks, Marion Jones snubbed the 2006 Weltklasse event, an action which widened a tremendous rift which had begun closing following her two-year absence from Zürich (2004-2005) – a rebuke Zürich organisers made in 2004 corresponding to her stated involvement in BALCO; their refusal to have had invited her was justified, they claimed, to keep the “credibility” of the sport intact. They would later prove to have taken correct action, as she wound up delivering news that she had at one point been a drug cheat. She left 22.000 paying fans on 2006-August-18 in her wake as well as millions in 150 countries watching the broadcast expecting to see her race.

It was not the first time Marion Jones, the woman who said she had a passion to compete, abandoned plans to run in 2006. She was originally scheduled to run the 200m at the USA national championships following her 100m victory, however, she forsook those plans citing fatigue. Unfortunately, there is no light shed on whether the “fatigue” set in before or after the drugs test.

The significance between the USATF abandonment and the 100m Zürich escape has to do with Marion Jones’s statements made leading up to her victory at the USATF meet.

I have a passion for the sport,” she said at the time. “I have a passion to compete, and nobody’s going to take that away from me.[1]

Marion Jones, the contestant ready for any battle – legal, personal or athletic – wanted you to believe that after all her proclamations on the subject of drugs and denials on the accusations against her, one international phone call derailed her, sent her home and caused her to pack it up for the season.

USATF’s phone call was, therefore, the supposed culprit which extinguished her fire and caused her passion for the sport to die out when, to her complete astonishment, they are to have announced on the evening of 17-August-2006 local time that her first urine sample was positive – a fact which would make one on the verge of being done in.

Envision if you will a prized fighter who trains for a title match: he trains hard, endures tremendous pain and stays in the ring in never forsaking his pursuit of winning that esteemed belt. A fighter, you see, is not a quitter, and in Marion Jones’s case, she had never allowed anyone to win – at least publicly – when her livelihood had been called to question.

However, what Marion Jones was not telling you privately was that she was giving up on her own battles – financial ones – following her anticipated – yet derailed – participation in the event; Marion Jones stated that she did not want anyone to “take that away from me”, yet she conceded a losing battle of give and take – one which had higher risks and more severe implications than a failed drugs test would have had on her career at this point.

Marion Jones had her prized and esteemed house foreclosed on 2006-August-16 – two days prior to her escape from Zürich on 2006-August-18, but what amounts to the evening of August 17th. I had initially believed Marion Jones had no “home” to return to, so-to-speak, once the plane landed at its intended airport and she was to have texted Riddick that she was “ok”, but became informed that she owned one more property which wasn’t under obligation to foreclosure proceedings.

An important question to pose immediately here is ascertaining when Marion Jones realised her Zürich start could have been in danger for reasons not relating to a failed drugs screen – a point we’ll discover in more detail below.

Following Marion Jones’s exit from Zürich, she was to wait 19 days before her “B”-sample test was to be conducted in Murray’s presence for review, or roughly two-and-a-half months from the date the “A”-sample test was drawn and stored – a time frame completely and prejudicially adverse to comparing as similar specimens as possible, inasmuch as EPO is known to break down very quickly after use; this prolonged time period made markers harder to read and more undetectable to testing procedures since the time lapse between testing and re-testing of samples is significant.

EPO tests measure a number of physiological markers of EPO use – including the presence of reticulocytes, which are the unripe red blood cells produced in great quantities by EPO injections. An EPO test declared “positive” in the absence of non-conformity or lab error would have demonstrated a high reticulocytes count – something which would have disclosed recent EPO injections; this test would have indicated EPO used in seven days or so before the test was administered and then the reticulocytes count would have diminished.

I’d not go so far as to insult your intelligence by quoting random people to lay groundwork for how EPO is said to clear through the body, so I’ll let a known person full of experience describe that process to you.

Marion Jones sought Charlie Francis to help her with some coaching issues, and it is to Francis whom I shall introduce here to succinctly describe testing for EPO – seven years prior to Marion Jones’s test. There is not meant to be any correlation between Marion Jones’s EPO tests and Francis’s statements other than for academic purposes in understanding what Francis stated in relation to EPO clearing the body in a relatively short period of time:

What they [Olympic drug testers] failed to mention is there are two different tests and you must fail them both. One has a retrospectivity of, at most, four days. The peak reached by EPO after injection is five days. So the only people who will be suffering from this are those that have multiple events that require the blood boosting. So in order to be optimal they would need to top it up somewhere through the meet and they can be grabbed at any time.[2]

Then again, Marion Jones did take EPO according to Victor Conte and the calendar entries the government released in December 2007.

There were 75 days between Marion Jones’s 2006 tests. USADA’s protocol is to have sample analytical results normally reported by the Laboratory to USADA within ten (10) working days of the laboratory's receipt of the sample, but within a period not to exceed three months.

I earlier mentioned the significance of Riddick’s comments regarding Marion Jones’s seemingly unplanned halt to her season and return back across the Atlantic, because Riddick may have been revealing a very rudimentary form of truth, albeit it may have been unbeknownst to him in mentioning both Marion Jones and her mother. Marion Jones’s leave for personal (financial) matters was a true statement insofar as it was not misleading, nor did he follow the doping story offered up by media.

Wells, her agent, likewise was vague on the subject matter, but concluded that Marion Jones was facing some personal issues which caused her immediate refusal to remain in Zürich.

Marion Jones had, prior to competing at the 2006 Reebok Games in New York, stated:

It’s been a really difficult three or four years, and I think that has shown in my times and my performances,” Jones said. “I could fool myself into believing that none of the exterior things, the outside factors, had an effect, but that's not the case. I’m not Superwoman. I’m human, and things affect me.

You get to a point where you can't really control the exterior forces, you can just do what you can do. It has been difficult, but I'm seeing now there is some light at the end of the tunnel and things can only get better.”[3]

Marion Jones’s vague generality has two meanings: one, those difficulties in her performances were the result of not being on a cycle of drugs for which she stated she had discontinued taking after leaving Graham; and, they reveal her having taken the opportunity to tell the truth about outside life pressures – exterior factors – knocking her off course rather than the threats of drugs suspensions and bad press having the stated affect she has documented.

[1] Associated Press, “Sources: Jones tested positive for EPO in June”, 2006-08-19

[2] Testosterone Nation, “Rocket Science – An Interview With Charlie Francis”, 2000-09-22

[3] The New York Times, “Marion Jones Adds New York Event to Comeback Trail”, 2006-06-03

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